Australian UFO Researcher
Bill Chalker


by Bill Chalker
Copyright © B. Chalker 2006

Anything in the print media that lasts a few years, in this era of the internet and virtual information at call, is something. A UFO publication that is still around for its 10th anniversary year is even more remarkable. Despite the critics and the doomsayers the Australasian UFOlogist has developed into a solid magazine featuring Australian material and significant international data. The UFOlogist, a labour of love by its creative team, was the realisation of a dream for its creator Robert Frola.

Robert was no UFO novice. His interest was ignited by a book he received as a gift. Around 1976 he joined the Brisbane based group UFO Research Queensland. He had a passion for sightings data, particularly raw data and sightings illustrations. This “obsession” found a potent expression in the form of his Australian UFO sightings compilation – “The Jarrold Listings” – which appeared in 1990. It was an impressive collection bringing together 631 cases spanning the period from the early 1800s to 1979. Robert Frola made substantial progress towards a second volume which was to include post 1979 cases, only to have this effort largely lost in a computer data failure. Robert has now dived back into this project having collected together an extensive data collection which he proposes to publish as a massive update of the original Jarrold Listings. For the uninitiated the name Jarrold come from pioneer Australian UFO researcher Edgar Jarrold, often referred to as the “father of Australian ufology.”

By about 1989 Robert got involved with editing UFORQ’s publication, initially with every second issue, and eventually as the main editor. His main objective then was to make the publication more interesting to the group membership. He focused on a better presentation of sightings data. Throughout his UFO apprenticeship Robert was frustrated with not being able to realise the kind of UFO publication he wanted to put before the UFO material reading public. By 1996 he broke with the UFORQ group and began to focus on trying to realise his dream.

The beginning of Robert Frola’s UFO magazine dream came with Volume 1 No 1 of the “Ufologist” with a cover date of January/March 1997. At 60 pages in length the Ufologist started out as a subscription publication of the short-lived UFOICQ group, also circulating by word of mouth, via select outlets and through other state groups. Soon thereafter it developed in a commercial publication, independent of any group, but offering groups a potential national newsstand profile for their reports, data and information. The dream was more fully realised in 1999 with the first national newsstand publication and distribution of the magazine – Vol 3 No 1 – the first time for an Australian UFO magazine in any sustained sense. By Volume 5 the Ufologist was appearing bimonthly. With the issue you are now reading – Volume 10 No 1 – 46 issues have been produced – a real tribute to Robert Frola’s national Australian newsstand UFO magazine dream. To elaborate on this somewhat, 4 issues appeared as Volume 1, 3 issues with Volume 2 (Volume 2 No 3/4 was a double issue), 4 issues each appeared in volumes 3 and 4, with 6 issues appearing in each of Volumes 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. These issues are packed with UFO information and feature articles from diverse writers, covering a wide range of aspects of the UFO subject.

The Australasian Ufologist has achieved this impressive publication record with the assistance of dedicated researchers and writers, and to a lesser extent through the activities of groups around Australia and overseas. Surprisingly there has only been limited, often intermittent or negligible direct input from UFO groups around Australia. While a few have supplied material, or sanctioned the republication of limited sightings data, most seemed concerned that substantial cooperation with an independent commercial national publication might affect the viability of their own operations and publications. This seems rather surprising given the rather obvious benefits that would flow from a greater profile for groups that would come from airing their activities, research and materials in a national newsstand publication. Despite trying from the very beginning to give groups a national newsstand presence, few took up the offer. With the publishing record of the Ufologist now reaching a decade, it is hoped that UFO groups will rethink this situation, and enthusiastically embrace the magazine. The only group that has consistently availed itself of this national newsstand profile has been the Australian UFO Research Network (AUFORN) co-ordinated by Diane Harrison. Although Diane and Robert have recently married, some seem to misunderstand the relationship between AUFORN and the Ufologist magazine. AUFORN is a non-commercial UFO group, whereas the Ufologist is an independent commercial magazine which offers groups like AUFORN a forum for their activities, research, reports and articles.

The Ufologist magazine has always been more than an opportunity for groups and individual researchers to publish their material. It has brought together the many manifestations of the UFO subject and its players – not only the “good”, but also the “bad” and the “ugly”, subjecting each manifestation to the scrutiny that comes with public embrace. The magazine has recorded these manifestations, and as a result, it is an excellent documented record of a remarkable phenomenon and the extraordinary controversy generated. The diverse expressions of the UFO subject in the magazine give a rich and voluminous voice to the controversy. Fascinating cases have been documented within its pages. A variety of opinions and material have appeared over the last 46 issues of the Ufologist. For example, a harvest of interesting material has appeared in George Simpson’s urbane column “Now then” which evolved from his former VUFORS column “What Next?” The Australian Disclosure project, documenting the government’s involvement with the UFO controversy, through the efforts of the group AURA and AUFORN support, has revealed extensive material via the “Revelations” column. AUFORN news and perspectives appear via Diane’s regular column. Dominic McNamara has given breakthrough propulsion material a focus in his column “The Way Home”. Rebekah Prole gives the UFO subject a regular shake-up, often via a satirical lens, in her controversial “Digging Deeper” column. Other themes, such as the paranormal, get an airing through columns like Jo Kent’s “Tales of Ghostly Sightings”. Diverse views and perspectives have been well served in the Ufologist magazine.

One of the more significant offerings was the appearance of Mark Moravec’s edited compilation of Australian research, over 2 issues – “The UFO Phenomenon in Australia”, featuring “Australia’s foremost authorities on UFO research” – Vol. 7, No’s 2 & 3 in 2003. Readers were given a rich and intelligent overview of the Australian UFO controversy. Those two issues were rightly described as “Collector” editions, where Australia’s extraordinary UFO history and manifestations were given potent expression in a commercial national environment.

From a personal point of view I have always supported the Australasian Ufologist magazine concept of a national newsstand publication. Robert Frola’s efforts, ably supported by the magazine team, particularly his wife Diane, have given the UFO subject a strong and regular profile to the Australian public, and an airing on a wider world stage. This is something that UFO groups have tried to do, with varying success. For this reason, in particular, I encourage groups and individual researchers to support this national endeavour. The strong and regular high profiling of the UFO subject in the national newsstand environment through the Ufologist magazine is critical for the continued viability of the whole UFO movement. While the internet, via web sites and blogs, represents a clear and present manifestation of UFO information, the continued success of UFO publications in the print media, such as the Australasian Ufologist, is a potent barometer of the health and dynamism of the UFO subject. All of us, groups and individuals alike, need to support such efforts to keep the “UFO vision” alive, and work towards maintaining and continuing the rich legacy of the Ufologist magazine and the UFO subject.

Although I understand the tremendous difficulties and challenges that come with keeping the Ufologist magazine out there on the national and international print media stage, I sincerely wish the magazine continuing success. I for one will continue to support it. Join the continuing journey by supporting the magazine and doing what you can to widen its readership and deepening its content through actively providing contributions.

While reflecting on the legacy of the only national home grown newsstand UFO magazine we have, I was also browsing through the long legacy of group magazines and individual publications. I hope all will continue to prosper and enrich our understanding of the UFO mystery.

Source: Ufologist Magazine Vol.10 No.1 Pgs 17-21 (photos)


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